How to Become an Advertising Account Executive

Research the requirements to become an advertising account executive. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in advertising.

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Should I Become an Advertising Account Executive?

Advertising account executives may work for advertising agencies or in the advertising departments of companies or organizations. They are responsible for cultivating potential advertising clients, maintaining relationships with current clients and providing a link between clients and the creative team. They also manage ad campaign budgets and timelines. Advertising executives can have a hand in the creative process and may participate in brainstorming sessions, offer ideas and input to the creative team, or work with demographic research.

Hours may be long, and the flexibility to work on diverse projects is important. Many of these advertising projects may require executives to travel to meet with their clients. The career also comes with frequent deadlines, which can be stressful.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary for advertising and promotions managers was $95,890 in May 2015.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Advertising, marketing, business, accounting, finance, economics
Experience Internship for entry-level; 2-5 years mid-level; 5-10 years senior executive
Key Skills Creativity; management, analytical, interpersonal, sales, and communications skills; teamwork; flexibility; attention to detail
Salary $95,890 (2015 median for advertising and promotions managers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, Career OneStop, U.S. Department of Labor, Princeton Review, O*NET OnLine

To work in this career, you'll need a bachelor's degree in advertising, marketing, business, accounting, finance, or economics. For entry level positions, you'll need a college or post-graduation internship. For mid-level careers, you'll need 2-5 years experience, and for the senior executive, you'll need 5-10 years experience.

You'll also need to be creative, flexible, pay attention to detail and have management, analytical, interposal, sales, communication and teamwork skills.

Steps to Become an Advertising Account Executive

Let's take a look at the steps you'll have to take to get started in a career as an advertising account executive.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor's degree programs in advertising, marketing, communications or related fields can provide a solid foundation for aspiring advertising account executives. Students develop critical thinking skills while learning about consumer behavior, market research and the most effective strategies for various media platforms. Business courses provide the fundamental skills needed for sales, contract negotiation, proposal writing, networking and customer service.

  • Apply for an internship. An internship during or immediately following school can provide access to an advertising agency or company advertising department. These jobs are sometimes administrative in nature, but can still provide experience working with budgets, clients and a creative team, as well as exposure to the advertising milieu.

Step 2: Get Work Experience in Advertising

Entry-level jobs as assistant account executives are available for recent college graduates. This time is valuable for acquiring industry knowledge, strengthening organizational, written and communication skills, and for learning about the team structure that is characteristic of the advertising profession. With experience, tasks expand to include working directly with account executives to complete client projects, as well as contributing ideas to ad campaigns and pitches.

  • Participate in professional association activities. Networking and involvement with professional associations are of growing importance in the advertising industry. Join organizations such as the American Advertising Federation (AAF) to stay aware of relevant news and trends. Attend work-related events, and take advantage of opportunities to network and share ideas with account managers and other advertising executives.

Step 3: Stand Out

Advertising is very competitive so it's important to stand out as an individual. Advertising account executives often develop a forte, such as working with a particular demographic, medium or type of business, and become an expert in that area. Another way to stay competitive is to maintain creative skills. In the advertising industry, the ability to bring fresh ideas to the table can be even more important than level of experience, since the success of a product campaign often depends on novelty to capture the attention of the audience.

To become an advertising account executive, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree, gain experience and make sure to stand out through developing an expertise and maintaining your creative skills.

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